U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

"The Prison System Doesn’t Make It Comfortable to Visit”: Prison Visitation From the Perspectives of People Incarcerated and Family Members

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 49 Issue: 10 Dated: 2022 Pages: 1474-1494
Date Published
21 pages

This study found that although prison visitation can help sustain familial bonds, the conditions of the visit can negatively affect the experience.


The findings of this study examining experiences and perceptions of visitation highlight that although visitation can help maintain social bonds among families, the barriers, processes, and procedures overshadow the visit itself. The weight of such stressors is especially felt by immediate family members and women who visit. While extensive research documents the causes and impacts of incarceration, the effects on families are under discussion. Prison visitation is one mechanism to help families communicate and bond, yet the institutions and restrictive policies often create distinct barriers and stressors. This qualitative descriptive study held focus groups with 77 people incarcerated and interviews with 21 family members in one southeastern U.S. state. Using thematic analysis, three major themes were developed through qualitative coding of participants’ responses: financial and time-related burdens, stress from rules and regulations, and familial interactions. The findings are discussed in light of implications for correctional policy and future visitation research.

Date Published: January 1, 2022